Southern Indiana

Following the death of a council member last week, the Floyd County Democratic Party will fill a vacant seat on the New Albany City Council.

Pat McLaughlin died on June 6th after a brief illness. The four-term council member served for nearly 14 years, five of them as president.

Current president Greg Phipps says McLaughlin never missed an opportunity to help his constituents and fellow council members.

“He exhibited leadership, compassion,” Phipps said. “He was a wealth of knowledge about the city and politics. And when I was elected to the council in 2011, I was pretty green, and Pat was the one that kind of took me under his wing and became my mentor.”

McLaughlin’s colleagues described him as a one-of-a-kind civil servant who will be hard to replace. But the Floyd County Democratic Party will have to do so in the coming weeks.

Phipps said he hopes the appointee will be as dedicated to the city as McLaughlin.

“It’s pretty easy to find somebody to serve as a council seat, but it’s extremely difficult to fill Pat’s shoes,” he said.

Democratic Party Chairman Adam Dickey said state law dictates that the member’s party must hold a caucus to fill the vacant seat. A five-person committee representing precincts from McLaughlin’s District 4 — which includes portions of Charlestown Road and Grant Line Road — will choose from the pool of candidates.

Dickey said information about filling the vacancy will be released on www.floyddems.org, and those interested in the position can call 812-725-2020.

“We just hope that moving forward, [McLaughlin’s] successor will be as big of a community champion,” Dickey said. “We always take very seriously these caucuses, and look forward to putting forward a good face for our community and having a strong voice there for that district.”

The new council member will serve the remainder of McLaughlin’s term, which ends in 2023. But Dickey hopes to find someone who’s willing to pursue a community role beyond that.

“We want to make sure that the person that comes forward is going to take the position very seriously,” he said. “Being an active member of the city council, that also includes being active in their district.”

“We like it when we see council members who not just attend events, but also work to communicate with the district, maybe doing door-to-door, maybe doing other neighborhood events, where individuals can come and get to know them,” he added.

Dickey said the party plans to hold the caucus and choose McLaughlin’s successor in time for the council’s first meeting in July.

John Boyle covers southern Indiana communities and health for WFPL News. He is a Report for America Corps member.